US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the Middle East with a basket full of worrisome gifts. On the face of it, the situation of pro-western states in the region following her visit would improve from now on.
receive $30 billion in aid for 10 years to purchase military equipment; Egypt will get $13 billion over 10 years, again as military aid; the six Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – will together receive $20 billion.
Rice's message was that this aid would help overcome the threat of al-Qaeda, the Shi'iteHizbullah,
some reason, she did not mention Hamas). So why the sour faces of the region's leaders? Because they're already beginning to understand the extent of the catastrophe.
All these goodies were meant to sweeten one simple fact: the United States is not planning to launch a military attack against Iran and is telling its allies in the region: We'll give you arms, and won't forget to encourage you. Good luck against Iran.
There is no other explanation for this outburst of generosity that aims to create a military safety belt around the Middle East, in a similar fashion to the diplomatic safety belt of the international conference, planned for the autumn. But this safety belt is a product of the Middle East that has to cope with Iran's conventional and nuclear armament program.
Amazingly, there is no sign of any pressing diplomatic campaign against Iran on the part of the United States. Britain, France and Germany are far more determined in matters concerning strengthening sanctions against Tehran. Bush's America seems to have lost interest.
From this, we can also understand that there is no great determination behind the planned international peace conference. Work on the conference is proceeding yawningly, at a snail's pace, and at arm's length. That's not the way to work! In 1991, for at least half a year before the Madrid conference, then Secretary of State James Baker was running around the region, threatening here, pressuring there, wheeling and cajoling. By the end, there was a successful conference that started a peace process.
This is bad news for the Middle East. Rice's soft approach has beaten the tough line taken by Vice President Cheney. But since America is not interested in abandoning her allies, she's softening her leaving with different types of treats. Make no mistake, however: this is abandonment.
The United States is seeking to escape from the region after its thundering failure in Iraq, its failure to introduce democracy and its weakening of regimes to the point where they are vulnerable to a takeover. Before the Americans intervened in Iraq, the region was far more stable.
Iran has also begun to note America's abandonment and is acting accordingly, becoming more daring and provocative. We're seeing increased Iranian terror activity in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and in Iraq. America has entered another Middle East tailspin, which is likely to bring disaster on the whole area. As great as the initial expectations were for the failed Bush administration, so are the feelings of disappointment and anger.
So what to do? Agreeing to accept the US aid was a tacit acceptance of America's decision to quit the struggle against Iran, and there is no going back on that. Last Thursday, Israel signed the agreement to receive the American aid and from now on, Iran is our problem.